By Jeff Beals
Procrastination is one of the leading causes of poor sales performance, according to research published by Gong.io, a technology company that analyzes sales reps’ conversations for its client companies.
Gong’s data-science team analyzed 15 months of telephone conversations between sales reps and their prospects. The results showed that average salespeople made far more calls in the last month of the quarter than the first two. The success rate of those frenzied, last-month calls was measurably lower than calls made early in the quarter.
In other words, according to Gong, having a bad quarter almost follows a pattern: two “lazy” months of prospecting followed by a frantic third month characterized by a desperate scramble to drag prospects across the finish line in time to make quota.
The study showed that average sales reps (defined as being below the top 20 percent of performers), were far more likely to follow this pattern of procrastination than those who were consistently top-20-percent producers.
It is understandable why this happens. After one quarter ends, you feel a sense or relief if you did well. Even if it wasn’t a good quarter, you feel like you have all the time in the world to make your sales goal once a new period starts.
Legendary football coach Tom Osborne once said, “The odds are always against you no matter what your previous history is. You have to overcome the tendency to relax.”
It’s hard to stay on top of your game and stay on top of your company’s leader board.
If you want to be a consistently elite sales professional, you need to push yourself just as hard at the beginning of a quarter as the end. You need to be disciplined. It helps to start strong.
In keeping with the football theme, a team’s performance during a game is largely determined by the way players practiced the previous Monday. If you have a big victory over a key rival one weekend, it can be hard to come to practice Monday with adequate intensity.
How can sales practitioners keep the intensity? How can you avoid the natural tendency to relax once a quarter ends or a big sale closes?
Prospect like your life depends on it. Because it does! Prospecting is harder than ever, so you need to be more diligent. Prospecting is a mindset, a way of life. You could even call is a “lifestyle.” Embrace it. Welcome it. Do it every single day of the week. While prospecting can be nerve-wracking and frustrating, push through it. If you are positive about it, you’ve won half the battle.
Time blocking. You have to make prospecting one of your top daily activities. You even have to do it on days you’re closing other deals. Top producers literally reserve blocks of time for prospecting and they don’t allow any distractions during those times. I know of no other use of your time that is more likely to lead to long-term sales success than being a dedicated, disciplined prospector.
Make a plan. While you need to be an enthusiastic prospector, you do need a plan. If you run to the nearest phone and start dialing cold prospects haphazardly, you’re wasting your time. Your plan should include what types of people you target, where you get leads, how you do pre-call research, the language you use to establish value and the tactics you use to push them further down your pipeline. Ideally, you make next quarter’s prospecting plan before the current quarter ends.
Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He’s an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide. He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.
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